Auditor General finds huge flaws in BC mining – First Nations offer solutions

Williams Lake BC: Wednesday May 6, 2016: BC’s First Nation’s Women Advocating Responsible Mining (FNWARM) today called on BC Mines Minister Bill Bennett to work with First Nations to address the damning failings of the province’s mine monitoring, and massively underfunded liabilities for mine accidents and polluting abandoned projects.

“Auditor General Carol Bellringer’s report vindicates what BC first Nations have been saying for years: that the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Ministry of Environment fail to protect British Columbians from the environmental risk, that monitoring of mine projects is weak, and that taxpayers are on the hook for damages because liability funding is woefully inadequate,” said FNWARM Chair Bev Sellars.

“Auditor General Bellringer calls for independent monitoring. First Nations are in the perfect position, with capacity building and training assistance, to provide this service through shared decision-making on permitting, and direct participation in independent monitoring and enforcement, through our own environmental Guardians programmes on our lands,” said Ms. Sellars.

Auditor Bellringer also reported that taxpayers could be on the hook for up to $1 billion in unfunded liabilities for mine remediation, which comes as no surprise. In fact that liability can only increase as new projects come on line.

“This was pointed out last year in the First Nation’s Energy and Mining Council’s report on the threat of mining to northeastern BC’s watersheds, which among other things called for a “Superfund” to be created to ensure taxpayers are not left to pick up the tab for accidents and to make sure remedial work is done,” said Ms. Sellars.

Ms. Sellars noted that the North Shuswap Tribal Council has already enacted its own detailed mining policy and tool kits and that other are following suit.

“While making sure only the right projects proceed, in the right way, is crucially important, so is ensuring that existing or future mines operate under the conditions laid down for them, that the effluence and other environmental impacts are properly monitored, and that remediation work is done.

“Our First Nations are the ones who know their lands and waters, and who have a totally vested interest in ensuring they are protected as they are the ones on the front lines if anything goes wrong, as it did with Mount Polley,” said Ms. Sellars.

“If Minister Bennett and his government genuinely accepts the AG’s report and wants to respond in a meaningful way, they should immediately begin working with our First Nations to help them build the capacity and gain the training to set up Guardian programmes.”

Contact: Bev Sellars: 1 -250-267-6924. Sean Durkan: 1-613-851-2151